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Excerpt from Psalm 56
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.”
Reflection by Martin B. Copenhaver
There is an ancient Jewish proverb: “What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.”
There is some catharsis in shedding tears. And tears that are never shed do not go away. They become something else—bitterness, depression, hardness of heart, increased grief. So God invites our tears.
But more, the author of this psalm pleads with God, “Put my tears in your bottle.” Imagine! God has a bottle for our tears!
It was an ancient Jewish practice for mourners to have a small bottle in which they could collect their tears. The top would allow those tears to evaporate over time, and when the bottle was completely dry, the time of grieving was considered over.
So the psalmist asks God, “Put my tears in your bottle.” We don’t need to keep our sorrow and our tears in the tight little bottle within us where they are usually kept, burning and vengeful, because God has a bottle for our tears.
It must be a bottle as big as the ocean because in it are the psalmist’s tears, a prophet’s tears over injustice, Jesus’ tears over the death of his friend Lazarus, tears of parents whose children have died in war, widows’ tears, toddlers’ tears, spurned lovers’ tears, your tears and mine, mingling with the tears of countless others from countless sorrows.
When we come to God with our grief, God does not pat us on the head and offer a condescending, “Now, now…” Rather, God receives our tears like an offering and holds them, as if in a bottle, honoring our grief and sharing it.
God, thank you for honoring my grief enough to hold it and to share it. Amen.
|About the Author|
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. His new book, This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, co-authored with Lillian Daniel, has just been published.